25 Best National Parks to Visit in December (+ 3 to Avoid!)

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The kids are off school and your office is closed over the holiday season. It might be winter, but you want to enjoy your precious time off. So, what are the best national parks to visit in December?

Believe it or not, December in the United States is a great time to explore what the National Park Service offers. The most popular national parks can get too crowded in the summer months. Many are also far too hot!

Some of the best National Parks to visit in December provide much-needed winter sun. Others are simply at their most beautiful in December. Many offer seasonal activities in the winter including holiday events to get you in a festive mood.

This is a complete guide to the best national parks to visit in December for all those reasons and many more. I’m also uncovering a couple of favorite national parks that are best visited at another time of year. Keep reading until the end for those top tips!

25 best national parks to visit in December: a family guide to the perfect winter getaway for your clan with climate/temperature & things to do for each park! #familytravel #usnationalparksPin

Table of Contents

Best National Parks to Visit in December

1. Death Valley National Park in California

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 57°F (14°C) and lows of 36°F (2°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Subtropical desert with little rainfall

Why Visit Death Valley National Park in December

Death Valley National Park is widely known to be the hottest place on earth. Temperatures in this desert landscape soared to 130°F in July 2021!

That’s why it’s one of the best national parks to visit in December. Mild temperatures and fewer crowds make it the perfect time of the year to check it out.

NPS welcome sign, Death Valley National Park, CaliforniaPin

Things To Do in Death Valley National Park in December

  • Visit Badwater Basin – Salt flats with the lowest elevation in North America
  • Go Hiking – Mosaic Canyon Trail, Golden Canyon Trail, or Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes Trail
  • Artists Drive – Check out the best views from Zabriskie Point and Dantes View on this nine-mile scenic drive

2. Everglades National Park in Florida

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 76°F (24°C) and lows of 66°F (19°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Subtropical, dry with low humidity

Why Visit Everglades National Park in December

Florida is a great place to escape the cold winters, so Everglades National Park is one of the best places to visit. December brings a much more bearable average temperature than summer. Plus, lower humidity and far fewer mosquitos!

Winter is the high season in Florida, unfortunately. But if I had to choose between crowds and Florida’s wet summer heat, it wouldn’t be difficult!

family walking the boardwalk on the Anhinga trail in Everglades NP, FloridaPin
Thibodeau family on the Anhinga Trail, Everglades NP

Things To Do in Everglades National Park in December

  • Manatee and Bird Spotting – Manatees and south-flying birds migrate to Florida in December
  • Go Hiking or Biking – Anhinga Trail, Shark Valley, and Mahogany Hammock Trail
  • Airboat Tour – Spot reptiles and alligators from a fun airboat sailing through mangroves

3. Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 45°F (7°C) and lows of 26°F (-3°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Relatively mild

Why Visit Grand Canyon National Park in December

As a Seventh Wonder of the World and the second-most visited park in the USA, Grand Canyon National Park gets busy! It’s one of the best national parks to visit in December as fewer people are around to fight for photo spots.

Seriously, it’s 100% worth the cold temperatures. Plus, the canyon rims look so beautiful covered in snow! Note that North Rim isn’t open from December to May, but the more popular South Rim is open year-round.

3 children sitting by Grand Canyon National Park sign at the south rim of the canyonPin
Grand Canyon is a great place to go outside peak tourist months!

Things To Do in Grand Canyon National Park in December

  • Helicopter Tour – Avoid the cold weather altogether and see the best views
  • Polar Express Train – Board a decked-out historic train from Williams to the Grand Canyon with hot cocoa and a visit from the jolly man himself

4. Zion National Park in Utah

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 45°F (7°C) and lows of 25°F (-4°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Cold semi-arid climate, snowy

Why Visit Zion National Park in December

With higher elevations of 4,000+ ft, Zion National Park welcomes snowfall and freezing temperatures in December. But it’s the third-most visited national park in the US. Summer is peak season and the park can be overwhelmingly busy.

Enjoy the beautiful contrast of the red rocks and white snow with fewer crowds.

family hiking a slot canyon in Zion National Park, UtahPin
Thibodeaus hiking a slot canyon in Zion National Park, Utah

Things To Do in Zion National Park in December

  • Zion Canyon Scenic Drive – Usually, visitors can only get around by shuttle in Zion and have to park outside. Not in December! Enjoy exploring the park at your leisure in your own vehicle (except the holiday week)
  • Go Hiking – Canyon Overlook Trail, Riverside Walk, Pa’rus Trail, and Lower Emerald Pool Trail
  • Spot Wildlife – Mule deer always hang out by Zion Lodge in December. You might spot bighorn sheep or elk seeking green grass at lower elevations than they usually graze

5. Joshua Tree National Park in California

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 61°F (16°C) and lows of 39°F (4°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Mild desert, usually little rain

Why Visit Joshua Tree National Park in December

Joshua Tree is one of the best national parks to visit in December thanks to its mild temperatures. The Mojave and Colorado Deserts, where you’ll find this national park, aren’t the coolest places to be in summer.

This park is famous for its diverse succulent plant life (the Joshua Tree is a succulent) that you can see year-round.

Joshua Tree National Park entrance signPin
Joshua Tree National Park, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Things To Do in Joshua Tree National Park in December

  • Go Hiking – The best hikes in December are Lost Horse Mine Trail and Lost Palms Oasis Trail
  • Visit the Cholla Cactus Garden – Beautiful vegetation and a great place for sunrise and sunset
  • Try Stargazing – December is a great time to spot the Milky Way and constellations like Orion and Sirius. There are often dark, clear skies this time of year. Don’t forget to wrap up!

6. Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 19°F (-7°C) and lows of 2°F (-17°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Snowy and very cold!

Why Visit Yellowstone National Park in December

Yellowstone National Park in December has amazing pros and serious cons. It can be blisteringly cold with average high temperatures well below freezing. Winter storms are not just likely, they’re inevitable.

On the other hand… It’s the fourth most-visited US national park. If you want to see some majestic wildlife and this unique geothermal landscape without hoards of people, the best time to visit is in the cooler months.

family in front of the Morning Glory pool in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National ParkPin
Thibodeaus at the Morning Glory pool, Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone (NOT in December)

Things To Do in Yellowstone National Park in December

  • Spot Wildlife – Bears are in hibernation but bison, elk, deer, moose, coyotes, and wolves aren’t
  • See Old Faithful – This famous geyser erupts every one to two hours
  • Snowmobile Tour – Sidestep the snowy hiking trails and avoid road closures by booking a tour

7. Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 29°F (-2°C) and lows of 12°F (-11°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Snowy and breezy

Why Visit Rocky Mountain National Park in December

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the best national parks to visit in December for winter sports lovers. Some of the best things to do here are skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, and ice skating. You can do them all in December!

NPS welcome sign for Rocky Mountain National Park, ColoradoPin

Things To Do in Rocky Mountain National Park in December

  • Go Sledding – Hidden Valley Creek freezes over and it’s a great place to sled with the family
  • Try Snowshoeing – Bear Lake Trail and Glacier Gorge Trail
  • Estes Park – Christmas lights and decor make this mountain town look like a fairytale

8. Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 21°F (-6°C) and lows of 3°F (-16°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Snowy and breezy

Why Visit Grand Teton National Park in December

Yellowstone’s little sister, Grand Teton National Park is just as snowy and frigid cold. While you risk road closures and winter storms, you could experience the solitude and natural beauty you’ve only dreamed about.

family at a scenic overlook in Grand Tetons National Park, WyomingPin
Thibodeaus in the Grand Tetons

Things To Do in Grand Teton National Park in December

  • Slide and Glide – Ski, snowshoe, or hike along the Teton Park Road or Moose-Wilson Road
  • Spot Moose – Bison, deer, elk, moose, antelope, coyotes, foxes, and bald eagles live in Grand Teton but the perfect place to spot moose is in the Gros Ventre River area

9. Big Bend National Park in Texas

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 66°F (19°C) and lows of 38°F (3°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Dry and mild

Why Visit Big Bend National Park in December

Like Joshua Tree, Big Bend National Park is one of the best national parks to visit in December due to its mild daytime temperatures. It’s named after the ‘big bend’ in the Rio Grande so you’ll enjoy views of river canyons, deserts, and mountain peaks without the heat.

family at the NPS sign for Big Bend National Park, TexasPin
Thibodeau family at Big Bend NP

Things To Do in Big Bend National Park in December

  • Go Hiking – Grapevine Hills Trail to Balanced Rock and Basin Loop Trail
  • Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive – The best way to see Big Bend when it’s chilly is from inside your car!
  • Langford Hot Springs – These geothermal springs in an old bathhouse have an average temperature of 105°F year-round so you can only enjoy them in winter

10. Yosemite National Park in California

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 40°F (4°C) and lows of 21°F (-6°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Cold and breezy

Why Visit Yosemite National Park in December

As the sixth most-visited park in the US, Yosemite National Park is one of the best national parks to visit in December to avoid the crowds. Tioga Road might be closed, but Yosemite Valley and Wawona are accessible by car year-round. Yosemite’s meadows are just beautiful under a dusting of snow.

family at the Yosemite National Park sign in CaliforniaPin
Thibodeau clan at Yosemite National Park

Things To Do in Yosemite National Park in December

  • Iconic Viewpoints – Tunnel View, El Capitan Meadow, and Mariposa Grove are must-sees
  • Ice Skating – Find a seasonal skating rink at Yosemite’s Curry Village with views of Half Dome
  • Sledding and Snow Tubing – Yosemite’s two official snow play areas are Badger Pass and Crane Flat

11. Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 40°F (5°C) and lows of 21°F (-6°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Cold and breezy with snowfall

Why Visit Bryce Canyon National Park in December

Like its Southern Utah neighbor Zion, the red rock canyons of Bryce Canyon National Park look beautiful with evergreen trees and freshly fallen snow. Snowshoeing is allowed on most trails at Bryce so you won’t feel restricted.

The main road rarely closes, so it’s one of the best national parks to visit in December for snowy fun!

family standing at the Bryce Canyon National Park sign in UtahPin
Shot taken in September, not December…but Bryce is a great place to visit in cooler months, and off

Things To Do in Bryce Canyon National Park in December

  • Snowshoe the Trails – Bristlecone Loop, Fairyland Road, and Paria Road are favorites. Rent snowshoes from Ruby’s Inn and join a ranger-led snowshoe hike
  • See the Winter Sunset – Sunset Point is called that for a reason!
  • Cross-Country Skiing – The 3.5-mile Paria Ski Loop is open in December

12. Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 76°F (24°C) and lows of 73°F (23°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Subtropical, dry with low humidity

Why Visit Dry Tortugas National Park in December

Visit two national parks in one trip! Head to the Everglades before catching a boat or seaplane to the Dry Tortugas National Park. Located 70 miles off the Florida Keys, this is one of the best national parks to visit in December.

While the windy weather makes the seas choppy, December is in Florida’s dry season. It’s not peak season as the best time to see sea turtles here is in the spring, but you gain solitude!

family on top of Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park, FloridaPin
At Dry Tortugas NP, atop Fort Jefferson

Things To Do in Dry Tortugas National Park in December

  • Visit Fort Jefferson – This huge 19th-century military fortress is open year-round
  • Snorkel in the Coral Reefs – Dry Tortugas is home to over 300 species of sea life. While there are no scuba diving rentals on the islands, snorkel gear is available
  • Switch off – With no cell phone towers or WiFi on the island, Dry Tortugas is the perfect place to put down your phone and recharge

13. Acadia National Park in Maine

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 38°F (3°C) and lows of 27°F (-3°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Cold and breezy

Why Visit Acadia National Park in December

The coast of Maine might seem like one of the worst places to visit in winter. It’s cold, windy, and miserable, right? There’s actually a lot to love about visiting Acadia National Park in December for those willing to wrap up warm.

Acadia is a top 10 most-visited national park, so it’s busy in the warmer months. Many restaurants and accommodation options remain open in the winter, as does most of the Park Loop Road. This is one of the most magical and best national parks to visit in December (as long as you pack crampons!).

family sitting on rocks in Acadia National ParkPin
On the Jordan Lake trail, Acadia NP

Things To Do in Acadia National Park in December

  • Scenic Flights of Acadia – A great way to see Mt. Desert Island without braving the icy paths
  • Cross-Country Skiing – 45 miles of carriage roads remain open for cross-country skiing
  • The Acadia Holiday Light Show – Head to Timberland Acres for a festive Christmas display

14. Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina & Tennessee

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 49°F (10°C) and lows of 32°F (0°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Mild and breezy

Why Visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park in December

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the busiest park in the country by miles. December is the low season and while it’s cold, it rarely snows. You can enjoy most of the same hikes and scenic drives as you can in other seasons with far fewer people!

It’s one of the best national parks to visit in December for Christmas displays at the local mountain towns too.

three kids next to great smoky mountains national parkPin

Things To Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in December

  • See Frozen Waterfalls – Laurel Falls, Grotto Falls and Abrams Falls
  • Pigeon Forge Winterfest – Marvel at six million twinkling lights on this winter walking trail
  • Ober Mountain in Gatlinburg – Ice skating, snow tubing, and chairlifts up Mount Harrison

15. Biscayne National Park in Florida

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 76°F (24°C) and lows of 72°F (22°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Subtropical, dry with low humidity

Why Visit Biscayne National Park in December

Biscayne National Park benefits from Florida’s low humidity, warm weather, and minimal mosquito activity in December. It’s out of the rainy season so visitor numbers climb, but not as high as in spring.

Plus, Biscayne is just south of Miami. It’s a little easier to reach than Everglades or Dry Tortugas so it’s one of the best national parks to visit in December.

lighthouse, Biscayne National Park, FloridaPin
Lighthouse at Biscayne National Park, Florida

Things To Do in Biscayne National Park in December

  • Snorkel the Maritime Heritage Trail – See shipwrecks and the sea life swimming around it
  • Kayak in Jones Lagoon – Sail and spy jellyfish and sting rays from a safe distance
  • Join a Boat Tour – Learn about the Mangroves and coral reefs from an expert guide

16. Arches National Park in Utah

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 40°F (5°C) and lows of 23°F (-5°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Cold and snowy

Why Visit Arches National Park in December

While Arches National Park might not seem like one of the busiest parks during the summer, it is for the size! Plus, the dry, high desert temperatures can be unbearable.

It’s one of the best national parks to visit in December for incredible scenery. You can see red rock arches and sandstone fins against the backdrop of snowfall. Wear crampons and bring hiking poles!

mom and three kids on the Park Avenue trail in Arches National ParkPin
On the Park Avenue trail, Arches NP (in September)

Things To Do in Arches National Park in December

  • Arches Scenic Drive – Witness Sand Dune Arch and Balanced Rock without leaving your car
  • Stargazing – Arches is an international dark sky park so make the most of those long winter nights
  • Go Hiking – Safer, easier December hikes are the Windows and Double Arch

17. Haleakalā National Park in Hawaii

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 76°F (25°C) and lows of 72°F (22°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Tropical, mild and breezy

Why Visit Haleakalā National Park in December

Haleakalā National Park is one of the best national parks to visit in December because it’s in Hawaii, of course! Named after a 10,000 ft dormant volcano, Haleakalā has mild weather in December and is always surrounded by lush forests and plant life.

welcome sign for Haleakala National Park, HawaiiPin

Things To Do in Haleakalā National Park in December

  • Haleakalā Summit Sunset – You’ll need a permit to see this epic, unforgettable sight
  • Pools of Oheo/ʻOheʻo Pools – These seven sacred pools are accessible through a short jungle trail
  • Hana Highway – This scenic coastal route around the edge of the national park passes many beautiful places like Hanawi Falls, Makapipi Falls, and the Eucalyptus Rainbow Trees

18. Saguaro National Park in Arizona

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 45°F (7°C) and lows of 30°F (-1°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Desert, dry, and relatively mild

Why Visit Saguaro National Park in December

Arizona welcomes visitors seeking winter sun every year. So, it’s not surprising Saguaro National Park should be one of the best national parks to visit in December!

Saguaro is named after the majestic cacti and is located on either side of Tuscon. While not exactly warm, this park’s desert climate means you can hike all day without suffering heat stroke!

three kids next to the Saguaro National Park sign in ArizonaPin
Saguaro NP (in March)

Things To Do in Saguaro National Park in December

  • Follow a Nature Trail – The Cactus Garden, Desert Discovery Trail, and Desert Ecology Trail
  • Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum – Natural history museum of the area
  • Bajada Loop Drive – It’s a beautiful drive through the Tuscon Mountains side of the park

19. Mount Rainier National Park in Washington

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 33°F (0°C) and lows of 23°F (-5°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Snowy and freezing!

Why Visit Mount Rainier National Park in December

Mount Rainier National Park is covered in wildflower meadows in the summer and snowfall in winter. Despite road closures and cold temperatures, it’s still one of the best national parks to visit in December.

Nisqually Entrance and Carbon River Entrance remain open year-round. You can see the snow-capped mountains, glaciers, and acres of alpine trees on clear days. Snowshoeing in this landscape will make you feel like you’re in a Christmas card!

kids playing in the snow in Paradise area of Mt Rainier National Park in OctoberPin
Thibodeau family friends (the Storers) at Mt. Rainier in October

Things To Do in Mount Rainier National Park in December

  • Visit Historic Structures – See icicles hanging from the many old buildings around this park like the fire lookout stations, Indian Henry’s Patrol Cabin, and Longmire Suspension Bridge
  • Bird-Spotting – Canada Jays, Clark’s Nutcracker, and Mountain Bluebird are alpine bird species
  • See Frozen Waterfalls and Lakes – Reflection Lake and Martha Falls are accessible from the main road

20. Crater Lake National Park in Oregon

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 37°F (3°C) and lows of 24°F (-4°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Cold and breezy

Why Visit Crater Lake National Park in December

Like the Rocky Mountains, Crater Lake National Park has an abundance of outdoor activities. Snowmobiling, sledding, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing… You name it, Crater Lake is one of the best national parks to visit in December to do it.

entrance sign Crater National Park, OregonPin

Things To Do in Crater Lake National Park in December

  • Ranger-Led Snowshoeing – Children over 8 can enjoy a ranger hike from Rim Village
  • Go Sledding – The meadow next to Crater Lake Lodge is a family favorite place to sled
  • Photograph Crater Lake – Merriam Point and Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway have stunning views

21. Olympic National Park in Washington

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 40°F (4°C) and lows of 32°F (-0°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Snowy and breezy

Why Visit Olympic National Park in December

Olympic National Park, just a stone’s throw from Seattle, is a beautiful blend of climates and landscapes. There are snowy landscapes to match the cooler temperatures and the Pacific Coast is especially dramatic in winter.

But winter is also the wet season when the lush rainforests come alive. It’s one of the most underrated and best national parks to visit in December!

family next to the Olympic National Park sign in WashingtonPin
In Olympic NP (in August)

Things To Do in Olympic National Park in December

  • Watch the Storms – Head to Kalaloch on the Pacific Coast in low tide to catch huge waves
  • Hike Through Rainforests – Hike through Hoh and Quinault rainforests
  • Winter Sports – Rent gear from Hurricane Ridge and go snowshoeing, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowboarding, and tubing

22. Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 54°F (12°C) and lows of 35°F (1°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Cool and humid

Why Visit Hot Springs National Park in December

Hot Springs National Park is home to 47 natural hot springs with average temperatures of 143°F. That’s obviously way too hot for bathing. However, there are historic 20th-century bathhouses that cool the therapeutic waters for use.

So, there’s no way to make the most of Hot Springs National Park during the hot, humid Arkansas summers! Hot Springs National Park also has hiking trails and fewer visitors in the cooler months, making this one of the best national parks to visit in December.

three children next to Hot Springs National Park sign in ArkansasPin

Things To Do in Hot Springs National Park in December

  • Relax at Bathhouses – Buckstaff Baths, Quapaw Bathhouse, and stroll down Bathhouse Row on Central Avenue
  • Go Hiking – Hot Springs Mountain Trail, Grand Promenade Trail, and Upper Dogwood Trail
  • West Mountain Drive – See beautiful views over Hot Springs without feeling the chill

23. Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 27°F (-3°C) and lows of 12°F (-11°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Continental, snowy and freezing!

Why Visit Voyageurs National Park in December

Voyageurs National Park, at first glance, doesn’t seem like one of the best national parks to visit in December. Even the high temperatures are below-freezing! But its dark winter skies and remote location make it the perfect place to visit for a special astrological event.

NPS sign for Kabetogama Lake in Voyageurs National Park, MinnesotaPin

Things To Do in Voyageurs National Park in December

  • See the Northern Lights – Check the weather forecast for clear skies and head to Ash River Visitor Center, Meadowood Road Day Use Area, and Rainy Lake Visitor Center Upper Larking lot
  • Sphunge Island Sledding Hill – There’s a small hill for younger kids and a large hill for older kids

24. Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 39°F (4°C) to a lows of 16°F (-9°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Snowy and cloudy

Why Visit Great Sand Dunes National Park in December

Great Sand Dunes is a snowy wonderland during December and Colorado Route 150 almost always remains open. While families like to visit over the holiday week, Great Sand Dunes is usually pretty quiet in December.

Sledding is a popular activity on the tallest dunes in North America, and that’s still true in December! Winter temperatures make the sand firmer which makes sledding and hiking easier. The pretty frozen creeks and snowy peaks mean Great Sand Dunes is one of the best national parks to visit in December.

best national parks to visit in December: 
 NPS entrance sign, Great Sand Dunes National ParkPin

Things To Do in Great Sand Dunes National Park in December

  • Rent Sleds – Great Sand Dunes doesn’t rent sandboards or sleds but there are year-round rental services nearby like Kristi Mountain Sports in Alamosa
  • Hike Lower Elevation Trails – Wellington Ditch Trail, Sand Sheet Loop, and Pinyon Flats Trail
  • Wildlife Spotting – Elk and Pronghorn remain active in the grasslands in December

25. Virgin Islands National Park on St. John Island

  • Average Temperatures in December: Highs of 81°F (27°C) and lows of 79°F (26°C)
  • Usual Climate in December: Tropical, warm and breezy

Why Visit Virgin Islands National Park in December

If you have the pocket change to head to the Caribbean this December, do it! The Virgin Islands National Park is on St John Islands and is one of the best national parks to visit in December for winter sun.

Everyone else will have the same thought so it’s a little busy. But you’ll be too busy enjoying the warm waters, beaches, coral reefs, and dense forests to worry about the crowds.

best national parks to visit in December: US Virgin Islands National Park beachPin
view in Virgin Islands NP

Things To Do in Virgin Islands National Park in December

  • Annaberg Sugar Plantation – Learn about the ruins of an 18th-century farm with a windmill
  • Go Hiking – Salt Pond Trail, Cinnamon Bay Trail, and Leinster Bay Trail
  • Snorkel and Swim – Trunk Bay has a beautiful beach but Canes Bay and Shoys Beach are the best snorkel spots. Canes Bay has a coral reef wall you have to see

Avoid Visiting These Three National Parks in December!

  1. Glacier National Park in Montana – You might have seen photographs of the epic snow-capped mountains of Glacier NP and think a winter visit to Montana would be idyllic. However, Glacier’s main road (Going-to-the-Sun Road) is inaccessible in December. This national park has a peak elevation of 10,466 ft and usually remains buried in snow until July.
  2. Lassen Volcanic National Park in California – Likewise, Lassen Volcanic NP has a maximum elevation of 10,457 ft. The entire park is covered in snow during the winter months. You won’t see the steaming fumaroles or meadows covered in wildflowers that put this national park on the map.
  3. Denali National Park in Alaska – As one of the more accessible national parks in Alaska, more adventurous travelers head to Denali NP in winter for a unique experience. Its only main road is closed, but cross-country skiing and snowshoeing around these snowy landscapes is popular. However, December is a little too early to guarantee good snowfall for winter outdoor activities. Book your trip for January or February instead.

Quick Tips About Visiting National Parks in December

  • Note Holidays, Closures & Free Entrance Days – Many parks, monuments, and other places under the jurisdiction of the National Park System are closed on Christmas Day (December 25th). But not all! Often, just the Visitor Center and the Fee Booth are closed. Double-check that you still need a National Parks pass before entering a park on Christmas Day. It might be free!
  • Book Cheap Lodging – Many hotels, inns, and glamping accommodations near America’s national parks offer discounts in the low season. Shop around inside and outside the park for the best deals.
  • Be Aware of Wildlife – Not all animals hibernate over the winter season. For example, bears in Yellowstone NP hibernate but bison, elk, mule deer, moose, coyotes, and wolves do not!
  • Always Check Weather Conditions – This is common sense but just as a reminder, check the weather forecast before and during your stay. Winter storms can roll in with little notice.
  • Pack the Right Gear – Gear shops and rental outlets in even the most popular and best national parks to visit in December are sometimes closed over winter. Pack all clothing and equipment or check rental shops are open during your visit.

Pin this info about the best national parks to visit in December for later! And if you found this article helpful, leave a comment on the pin. That helps others decide whether to use this information, too!

25 best national parks to visit in December: a family guide to the perfect winter getaway for your clan with climate/temperature & things to do for each park! #familytravel #usnationalparksPin
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About Rebecca Sharp

Rebecca Sharp is a freelance writer who splits her time between Utah and the UK where she’s from. When not writing about or exploring national parks, she likes to write about and explore filming locations and film festivals on her blog, Almost Ginger.

She has a master’s in Creative Writing and her work has been featured in Hostelworld, Mashable, BBC Radio, and the Zero to Travel Podcast. Rebecca wants to encourage armchair travelers to get off the couch and turn their silver screen dreams into reality.

1 thought on “25 Best National Parks to Visit in December (+ 3 to Avoid!)”

  1. We’re hoping to visit the national parks in Hawaii this December but I have been warned that it’s usually more crowded since December is peak travel season in Hawaii.

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